Posts Tagged ‘iron’

What should you look for in a prenatal vitamin?

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Your body uses vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to help it stay strong and healthy. During pregnancy it’s hard to get the right amount of some vitamins and minerals just through food. That’s why you should take a prenatal vitamin every day during pregnancy. Taking prenatal vitamins along with eating healthy foods can make sure that you and your baby get the nutrients you both need.

Here’s what you should look for in a prenatal vitamin:

Folic acid: 600 micrograms

Folic acid is a B vitamin that every cell in your body needs for healthy growth and development. Taking it before and during early pregnancy, can help prevent neural tube defects (also called NTDs).

Some foods such as bread, cereal, and corn masa have folic acid added to them. Look for “fortified” or “enriched” on the label.

When folic acid is naturally in a food, it’s called folate. Sources of folate include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, like spinach and broccoli
  • Lentils and beans
  • Orange juice

Iron: 27 milligrams

Iron is a mineral. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Your body needs twice as much iron during pregnancy to carry oxygen to your baby.

Iron-rich foods include:

  • Lean meat, poultry and seafood
  • Cereal, bread and pasta that has iron added to it (check the package label)
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Beans, nuts, raisins and dried fruit

Calcium: 1,000 milligrams

Calcium is a mineral that helps your baby’s bones, teeth, heart, muscles and nerves develop.

Calcium is found in:

  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Broccoli and kale
  • Orange juice that has calcium added to it (check the label)

Vitamin D: 600 IU (international units)

Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium and helps your nerves, muscles and immune system work. Your baby needs vitamin D to help his bones and teeth grow.

Vitamin D is found in foods such as:

  • Fatty fish, like salmon
  • Milk and cereal that has vitamin D added to it (check the package label)

DHA: 200 milligrams

DHA stands for docosahexaenoic acid. It’s a kind of fat (called omega-3 fatty acid) that helps with growth and development. During pregnancy, DHA helps your baby’s brain and eyes develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins contain DHA, so ask your provider if you need a DHA supplement. DHA can be found in some foods including:

  • Fish that are low in mercury, like herring, salmon, trout, anchovies and halibut. During pregnancy, eat 8-12 ounces of these kinds of fish each week.
  • Orange juice, milk and eggs that have DHA added to them (check the label)

Iodine: 220 micrograms

Iodine is a mineral your body needs to make thyroid hormones. You need iodine during pregnancy to help your baby’s brain and nervous system develop.

Not all prenatal vitamins have iodine, so make sure you eat foods that have iodine in them. This includes:

  • Fish
  • Milk, cheese and yogurt
  • Enriched or fortified cereal and bread (check the package label)
  • Iodized salt (salt with iodine added to it; check the package label)

A note about vitamin A….

Your baby needs vitamin A for healthy growth and development during pregnancy. But too much may cause birth defects.

Preformed vitamin A is found in foods such as liver and fish liver oil. You should avoid fish liver oil supplements during pregnancy, but occasionally you can eat a small portion of liver. Very high levels of preformed vitamin A can cause birth defects. You should not get more than 10,000 international units (IU) of vitamin A each day.

Beta carotene is another form of vitamin A found in certain yellow and green vegetables. Beta carotene is not associated with birth defects and is safe to consume.

Talk to your health care provider about getting the right amount of vitamin A from healthy eating and your prenatal vitamin.

Make sure to tell your provider about any additional vitamins or supplements that you take.

Anemia and pregnancy

Monday, September 25th, 2017

Anemia occurs when your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the rest of your body. Without the right amount of oxygen, your body can’t work as well as it should, and you feel tired and run down. Your body needs iron to make red blood cells. During pregnancy, you must produce about 50% more blood to meet the oxygen needs of your growing baby. If you do not get enough iron during pregnancy, you can become anemic (have anemia). If you have anemia during pregnancy, it can deprive both you and your baby of oxygen.

Iron deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of premature birth and low birthweight.

Getting the right amount of iron

Before getting pregnant, women should get about 18 milligrams (mg) of iron per day. During pregnancy, the amount of iron you need jumps to 27 mg per day. Most pregnant women get the right amount of iron by taking prenatal vitamins and eating foods that contain iron.

You can help to lower your risk of anemia by eating iron-rich foods throughout your pregnancy. Foods high in iron include:

  • Poultry
  • Dried fruits and beans
  • Eggs
  • Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas
  • Organ meats (liver, giblets)
  • Red meat
  • Seafood (clams, oysters, sardines)
  • Spinach and other dark leafy greens

Foods containing vitamin C can increase the amount of iron your body absorbs. So it’s a good idea to eat foods like orange juice, tomatoes, strawberries and grapefruit every day.

Calcium (in dairy products like milk) and coffee, tea, egg yolks, fiber and soybeans can block your body from absorbing iron. Try to avoid these when eating iron-rich foods.

Signs of anemia

Anemia develops over time. As it progresses, you may have these signs and symptoms:

  • Fatigue (very common)
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Pale skin
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain

Your health care provider uses a simple blood test to check for anemia several times during pregnancy. Make sure you let your provider know if you have any of the signs or symptoms. If you are anemic, your provider may prescribe an iron supplement.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.